As we spiral downwards further into fascism here in Florida, I am often rendered speechless with fury and despair over the responses (and lack thereof) from those around us. Today, DeathSantis declared the state would cease to fund all DEI initiatives at higher education institutions. DeathSantis’s lackeys also announced an actual literal fascist would become the new president of the most liberal college in Florida, New College. Meanwhile, as a member and leader of a administration-mandated DEI committee, my emails and messages are being searched for anything untoward. All of this in the name of “academic freedom” for conservatives. Except it’s not conservatives who are lacking academic freedom in this state. Time and again it is professors and researchers who don’t toe the party line who are restricted, silenced, and fired. It is liberal thought that is being restricted in classrooms, it is queer and POC people who are being erased from public view.
I don’t even know what to say about all this honestly. How do you fight back against fascism alone? Why won’t more people in this state wake up to what’s happening and help fight back? I truly believe there are more people who disagree with DeathSantis’s actions than agree with them, but where are they? What do you do when powerful men bow to the pressures of more powerful men to silence learning and diversity of thought? What do you do when your very livelihood and well-being are being driven out?
I personally am trying to both escape and stand up. I’m organizing with my local university community, through loose coalitions like #FreeUF and local unions, I’m refusing to give up the programs and committees that are advancing diversity within my institution. But I’m also actively searching for other jobs in my field, and hoping against hope that I can find something safe to do remotely, because I am physically stuck in this state for another few years until my son comes of age. If it were up to me, I would take my son and flee the state entirely. I don’t want him growing up in this environment, I don’t want to be afraid for my personal safety as a queer, trans person. But it is not, so I continue to fight.
But it’s disheartening. We need more people, inside and outside Florida, making an outcry against these actions by a fascist state government. We need national attention focused on the state, revealing DeathSantis’ evil for what it is. We need the federal government, and national accreditation agencies, and large corporate sponsors to stand up and say “No, we will not allow you to do this to your citizens”. Because make no mistake, this is not “just” a problem for higher education and schools. This is a coordinated, long-term attack to disenfranchise, erase, and probably eventually legislate out of existence people of color, queer people, trans people, and eventually everyone who does not toe the party line. This is a threat to our very existence as humans with rights, and it’s happening right now, right under the noses of a lot of people. And if you think this is just a problem for Florida, or Texas, or Oklahoma, I have news. This fight is coming to a state near you, and soon, if for no other reason than that DeathSantis is looking to run for President in 2024. We have to stop this now, or there will be nowhere for people to run to.
So, this is kind of a call to action. Stand up and be heard. Call your congresspeople if you’re in Florida and make your displeasure known. Build community actions like protests and marches. Write letters to the newspapers. Talk about it on social media. Help the vulnerable escape to safer states if you have the means. Do something. And if you’re in or around Gainesville FL on February 6th at 2pm, come out to Tigert Hall on 13th Street and protest with us to let our new politician-president of the University know that we are watching and we will not sit idly by while he destroys our school.